Chapter 30: The War with the Harmon Territory (3)

Having finished his business with Viscount Harmon, Milton left the room with a smile. In high spirits, he wanted to check his status window first and foremost.

‘How have things changed?’

Bursting with anticipation, Milton opened the stats window.

[Viscount Milton Forrest]

Monarch LV. 3

Strength – 72 Command – 79

Intellect – 74 Politics – 52

Loyalty – 100

Special Traits – Charisma, Awaken, Clout, Bargain

Charisma LV.3: Able to use the carrot and stick appropriately to raise the loyalty of subordinates.

Awaken LV.3: Awaken servants, increasing their abilities through psychological means and raising their loyalty.

Clout LV.2: Able to raise public sentiment of oneself through issuing rewards or giving rousing orations.

Bargain LV.1: Able to assert one’s own conditions more successfully when making deals or entering negotiations.

Other than the new ‘Bargain’ special trait, the ‘Awaken’ and ‘Clout’ skills had also leveled up.

‘My Politics stat went up 2 as well, not bad.’

His abilities as a whole had made leaps and bounds compared to the beginning. Feeling proud of himself, he opened the status window for his lands next.

Territory – Forrest Territory

Population – 15470

Funds – 15480 Gold

Main Products – Wheat, Barley, Oat, Lumber, Fur

Available Developments – Copper Mine

Army Strength – 4 Knights, 20 Probationary Knights, 20 Cavalry, 400 Infantry, 150 Archers

‘Available developments? Is this a new ability?’

Milton’s heart thumped as he observed his territory’s stat window.

His population had doubled, plus lumber and fur had been added to his main exports. He had already expected that much at least – the Harmon lands had expansive forests, and by practice sold the lumber provided by these woods as well as the pelts of the animals that inhabited them. Though the hide exports were not large in quantity, they were known to still be rather lucrative as the fur of martens and foxes were quite popular among women.

But more than that, what really allured Milton was this new ‘Available Developments’ ability.

As far as he was aware, the Harmon Viscounty did not operate any mines – and yet a mine was available as an option under this new category.

In other words…!

‘Is that how this ability works?’

Milton’s lips naturally curled upwards into a smile.

Even if it were not a gold or silver mine, mineshafts still brought considerable profits. As long as the mine was successfully prospected and constructed, it was a trade that was bound to bring significant commercial benefits.

‘Viscount Harmon probably wasn’t aware that there was an ore deposit in his lands all along. If it’s been left untouched, the reserves would be massive…’

Milton could almost hear the cash raining down around him.

‘Let’s calm down. This war isn’t over yet.’

Milton stopped himself from floating away to the clouds and stayed level-headed. Instead, he immediately called on Jerome and issued an order.

“Jerome, start training the new troops and make sure they settle down as part of our forces.”

“We may be running short on time to train them properly – is that alright, my Lord?”

“It’s fine, it’s fine. Winter is slowly but surely coming, and there shouldn’t be any more fighting within the year at the least.”

“But Count Rosscaiz and Viscount Rosswai still remain.”

“The Count will take some time to deal with, but… I’ve got something up my sleeve for dealing with Viscount Rosswai.”

Milton grinned hintingly at Jerome.

“War is not always fought through the spilling of blood. If Viscount Harmon is brash, Viscount Rosswai is a timid man. His avoidance of bringing attention to himself may seem like he’s just being cautious, but in essence, he’s a coward.”

“Do you have a card to play?”

“Indeed I do. If all goes well, we’ll be able to eat up Viscount Rosswai’s territory whole – and if we fail, there should be no reason we would pay a price.”

“I see. Then I shall trust my lord’s words and drill the soldiers to my utmost.”

“Sure. Go ham.”

“Go ham?”

“Oh? Er… I mean just do your best.”

“Yes, understood.”

Milton’s mannerisms from his previous life had emerged.

After issuing his orders to Jerome, Milton called on Max, talking to him as he handed over the two documents stamped with Viscount Harmon’s seal.

“You know what you have to do, right?”

The first document that Milton passed on was an ordinary surrender document. It detailed the acknowledgment of the defeat and a formal transfer of the Viscount’s territory. The real point of interest was the second document.

“This is… Wow, I see.”

Max was awestruck as he read the document. As far as he could see, this was a sure trick up their sleeves.

“It’s important that we find the right time to utilize this, as I’m sure you’re aware.”

“Yes, I’ll make effective use of this when that time comes.”

“Good. And now that we have some breathing room, try making an offer to the mercenaries that were employed by Viscount Harmon.”

“Would it be alright even though they were our enemies as late as yesterday?”

“It’ll be fine. Pay them the appropriate remuneration and they will fight accordingly. That’s why they’re mercenaries, after all.”

“Then I shall do as you command.”

Max’s attitude towards receiving Milton’s directions had certainly become more amenable than before. It had been but one occasion, yet witnessing Milton lead the battle to victory without complications was enough for Max to start acknowledging his capability.

As if evincing this, Milton saw Max’s Loyalty stat increase to 77.

‘Raising it to 80 would be enough to stop worrying about betrayal, right?’

Milton looked upon Max with a content smile.

‘My Lord… he doesn’t swing that way, does he?’ Max thought to himself.

Milton had no idea what Max was really thinking.

The victory of the Forrest county and the merger with the Harmon lands spread to the vicinity like wildfire.

As far as the Capital of the Lester Kingdom was concerned, this was no big deal. Two countryside nobles on the outskirts had a tussle and one of them emerged the victor; nothing more. As that was the weight with which they perceived this event, Milton’s submission of the land merger document was quickly accepted and processed. They assessed that there was no need to scrupulously find faults with the document when the seals of both winner and loser were stamped on already.

Albeit unlike the Capital, the territories surrounding the Forrest county reacted differently. A lords’ war breaking out in these peaceful parts was already a hot topic – but no one anticipated one side to completely consume the other.

“Viscount Milton Forrest they say…”

“I heard he’s young – looks like he’s brimming with that youthful blood.”

“Seeing that word is he participated in an actual war, it seems he’s rather belligerent by nature.”

“Is that so? Hmmm… we have a bit of distance between our land and the Forrest territory, but I imagine you’d be concerned for the welfare of their more immediate neighbors.”

“Indeed.”

The nearby territories were all monitoring the situation prudently.

Milton Forrest’s repute among them was forming into the image of a rising noble that was considerably young - and on the warpath. Notwithstanding this, now that this conflict had reached its conclusion, they expected him to be self-aware of his position and lay low for the time being. 

Yet they found their assumptions to be wrong in less than a month. Milton began moving as autumn started drawing to a close and the first hints of winter appeared. Readying the chesspiece he had prepared, he officially declared war against Viscount Rosswai.

“How could this be…”

Having received the declaration of war, Viscount Rosswai became restless and bit his lips. Truth be told, he himself had been preparing for a war.

More precisely, it was meant to be a combination of Viscount Harmon, Viscount Rosswai, and Count Rosscaiz as well. The three of them were supposed to combine their strength and take over the Forrest territory, splitting it in three between them. Alas, these plans were altered due to Viscount Harmon acting out of line by rallying his soldiers and storming the Forrest lands first.

It was flustering enough that their plans were blindsided by his erratic acts, but they were even more taken aback by the results of the battle. Milton Forrest pulled together a rather overwhelming victory against Viscount Harmon. One battle was enough for them to rout Viscount Harmon’s forces and capture the man himself.

Viscount Rosswai was shocked at the difference in combat prowess shown by the results of their conflict. Truth be told, he himself had thought that he could sufficiently win against the Forrest county with his forces alone, without forming a pact. But with Harmon’s loss, it seemed that the Forrest territory’s strength was nothing to be trifled with.

Panicked, Viscount Rosswai had immediately sought Count Rosscaiz. As expected, Count Rosscaiz himself was taken aback by this unexpected development.

“Count, what shall we do? If we continue with the war as planned, wouldn’t it be a little…” Viscount Rosswai wanted to say ‘troublesome’, but he swallowed his words. However, Count Rosscaiz was not so dense that he didn’t catch Rosswai’s drift.

“It does seem that the youngin’s army is a lot stronger than we expected.”

“Word is that some strong mercenaries were taken under their wing as probationary knights when they returned from the war. Perhaps that is the source of their strength.”

“Hmm…”

Milton had rewarded his probationary knights handsomely after the end of the last battle. In some aspects, it was in recognition of their achievements on the field of battle – but it was really more intended as a smokescreen from the eyes of their neighbors.

This was because he assessed that hiding the wild card known as Jerome Taker – as well as his own ascendance to the level of Expert – would be advantageous. Thus, he made sure that the lips of his subordinates were kept sealed, and generously rewarded his probationary knights to act as if they were the real key to their victory.

Viscount Rosswai fell for Milton’s trap in its entirety.

“Mmm… perhaps it would be best to postpone the war for now.”

Indeed, Count Rosscaiz also believed that committing to a war at present would be biting off more than they could chew. After all, they had picked this fight in the first place with the certainty that they could win. Now that what appeared to be an X-factor was emerging, they could not continue pushing this narrative.

“Understood, Count. Then I shall return home assuming that we are delaying the war.”

“You do that. Let us put aside swallowing up the Forrest county for now.”

The two of them parted ways after that.

Viscount Rosswai had a gist of what their conversation really meant. Count Rosscaiz may have said that they should defer the war; but in reality, this was more akin to saying that they should render their plans null and void.

‘I guess in some ways, it was a blessing in disguise that Viscount Harmon did as he felt like. Shit, but how am I going to make it through this winter? Our provisions are running a little too low…’

Viscount Rosswai grumbled as he made his way back home.

Those were the events of just about a fortnight ago. Viscount Rosswai made it this far without any particular issues. Now that their plans for war were as good as gone, he thought there was no need to be on guard. He had become completely loose.

As if he had been waiting for this moment all along, Milton had filed a declaration of war against Viscount Rosswai. More than anything, what really disconcerted Viscount Rosswai was the justification Milton had put forth.

Viscount Harmon had led his forces into a surprise attack without so much as a declaration of war, breaking an unwritten rule. If the appropriate aboveboard procedure was not taken before battle, it became difficult for the victor to assert their authority even if they were to win a territory war. It thus followed that it was paramount for the declarer to provide an apt justification for waging the war…

…and Milton had provided Viscount Harmon’s testimony for that purpose.

Milton procured a testimony by Viscount Harmon confessing that Viscount Rosswai incited him into attacking the Forrest lands, and submitted this evidence to the Capital. The Capital accepted this as a valid justification and formally approved the war.

In Viscount Rosswai’s eyes, this whole procession seemed insanely unfair. It was certainly the case that Viscount Harmon, Count Rosscaiz, and himself were intending to attack the Forrest lands, but it was planned to be a simultaneous attack on a decided date. He had never personally goaded Viscount Harmon into attacking.

One could easily see this as pedantic and as more or less the same thing – but Viscount Rosswai felt it was underhanded nonetheless. The three of them had schemed this together, yet Viscount Harmon already fell and Count Rosscaiz quietly took his foot out of these matters. At this rate, all the onus – and blame – was shifting towards him.

He had already tried everything he could. Viscount Rosswai hastily sent a man to the Capital to plead his case, but they did not retract the document declaring the war once it had already been approved.

He tried to request assistance from Count Rosscaiz before the war started, but he was coldly declined. In fact, Count Rosscaiz turned away the messenger that Rosswai sent without so much as greeting him, bluntly indicating that he did not want to be associated with this matter anymore. There was no incentive for him to take the risk of helping Count Rosswai, now that he knew the Forrests’ military strength was nothing to be trifled with.

He was in a state of complete isolation. Milton had placed Viscount Rosswai squarely into the worst possible situation.

Viscount Rosswai had two paths left to him. The first was to go to battle and win with whatever means possible, and the second was to humbly accept his defeat and hand over his lands in exchange for sparing his life. One of these two options had to be chosen.

‘Can I win? We might not have a good grasp of their forces, but our army’s nothing to scoff at either…’

Viscount Rosswai considered his options for a moment. All his problems would be solved if he were to simply win in battle. His heart yearned for victory, but…

“No, I’m biting off more than I can chew. My forces aren’t really all that different in strength to Viscount Harmon’s. I can’t risk my life when victory isn’t anywhere near assured.” He shook his head.

As Milton had assessed, Viscount Rosswai was completely risk-averse to put it in a good way, and a timid coward in less benevolent terms. Whatever the case may be, he certainly did not take any risks.

His decision to wage war in the first place came after tireless musing, at the end of which he concluded that their victory was certain. But now, the circumstances had changed. The strength of the Forrest forces was being reassessed after the battle with Viscount Harmon.

The new assessment of this current head of House Forrest was that he was a man belligerent enough to personally participate in a war, and appointed many strong knights under him with the aim of transforming his noble house into a military mainstay. Viscount Rosswai figured that he could not win against the Forrest territory with his strength alone.

‘Is surrender the only option left?’ Viscount Rosswai sighed with distaste over his position. He was too weak-kneed to put his life on the line and protect his land. Having lived in this peaceful nation for his entire life, he was a noble that was one of those delicate flowers growing in a greenhouse after all; nothing more. At long last, he raised his pen and began writing up a notice of surrender.

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